This is the 2nd half of the post from last week. It will hopefully give you the remaining tips and ideas you may need at one time or another. My career and methods have always been a tad bit unorthodox but that is one thing that allows me to solve personnel and customer problems easier than others, sometimes.
- Attempt to have a strategically placed third person nearby
The individual you designate shouldn’t be a friend or family member of the upset individual. This person doesn’t have to be in the room with you, just in a place to observe any improprieties or threat. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a member of the opposite sex, some company’s require a third person when dealing with this type of situation, which is always a good idea to prevent innuendo.
This person is not there to take sides, which doesn’t mean they can’t empathize. However they will provide documentation if any claims of harassment or intimidation is made later and ideally they should be a member of the same sex as the employee/customer. They can also act as back-up should it become necessary.
- Use as much physical space as possible
No matter where the location of your meeting you want to stay at least an arm’s length away, preferably 2. This also applies to the initial counter person if it’s a customer. First it allows for an extra split second to react and secondly it doesn’t allow them to simply reach out and grab your clothes, facial hair, or throat. As with the front counter width, try to keep something between you and them, anything that can afford you a few extra milliseconds should it threaten to turn violent.
Another aspect is to always leave yourself with an escape route. While assaults are rare in this instance, you never know when you may need it. Try to always have your back to the door with the upset persons back to the wall. And ensure that no sharp objects are within easy reach. Even pens and pencils should be avoided if possible.
- Stick to the issue.
As we spoke about earlier, don’t let this angry person goad you into losing your calm attitude by escalating the situation by swearing or questioning your parentage. Always speak authoritatively, softly, clearly, and slowly. While the individual be maligning your morals, character, and values, you must show that the issue can be resolved without resorting to verbal sparring.
Continue to ask questions that move the conversation along without too many track changes or distractions. But try to keep the focus on the issue at hand and gauge the individual’s demeanor. If appropriate, crack a few jokes and lighten the mood, if possible.
- If you feel control slipping away, step out
You are not a verbal punching bag. It is natural to get upset at someone when they are screaming at you. But, again, you must focus on the issue at hand and force yourself to keep a calm and cool exterior. Remember, that it’s not necessarily you they are mad at, you just happen to be a convenient target.
However, if you feel the anger rising, then excuse yourself and step outside. If you lose your cool, then they have won control of the situation. Walk about and count to 10. Do what you have to do to keep your cool. You may have to pull the third person out to consult with them or just get a drink (remember to offer something to the individual, even buying them a soda. Just don’t stay away for too long. The person will become angrier by the minute and that’s not something you need.
The key to all of these tips is let the antagonist believe that they are in control at all times. In reality you are in control and manipulating the situation to the advantage for all concerned. However, don’t let the individual feel they are being patronized or misled and above all, never lie. Any time a weapon is displayed, of any type, or makes threats, do not hesitate to call either security or the police. Specifically a statement such as ‘I’ve got a gun at home and I know how to use it’ could and should be considered a threat,
Another item you may wish to implement in these situations is a distress code. This code can be either a word or phrase to let others know that something is wrong and back up may be required. Just ensure that the code chosen is nothing used in every day conversation. Make it simple and unsubtle so the individual doesn’t know what’s happened – but another staff member knows to call help ASAP.
As I have repeatedly stated over the past few decades, WPV is a threat in any business anywhere, at any time, to anyone, for any reason. It has struck in businesses with as few as 5 employees and with multi-national corporations employing hundreds of thousands. But if you know the warning signs, know how to defuse these ticking bombs, train your security officers and employees along with a plan in place you can minimize the impact to everyone concerned.
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I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear